Hearts Aflame, Minds Confused



Allison and Holly and baseball.

Following the Supreme Court decision allowing same sex marriage, my friends Allison and Holly have finally decided to get hitched, and asked me to perform the ceremony.

They’re both excited to be marrying each other, but more than a little conflicted about entering into the institution itself. As Holly said, “Let us know if you have any words of advice or things to keep in mind. We’re taking this very seriously yet we’re both ambivalent about marriage and not very sentimental, and I think that is bearing out in our approach.”

This is what I said in my reply:

I hear you about your conflicted feelings. I think the thing to remember is that this, first and foremost, is about the two of you. While you may not be very sentimental, you did happen to bump souls, and you’ve chosen, quite happily, to be together as lovers, friends, and life partners. You take joy in hanging out together. You have fun together. You adventure well together. You look awesome in tuxedos together. And you love each other in a way which gives you a universe of intimacy between you.

You’re both brilliant, powerful, seriously no bullshit women, and you have managed to entwine your lives in the same way that whole galaxies can interweave and pass through each other – with eddies of gravitational attraction and total transformation – while still remaining utterly intact. You have a Big Red Love, and that’s what really matters.

No, the government shouldn’t have Word One to say about the “legality” or “legitimacy” of relationships. Nor should any other kind of institution. No, our culture shouldn’t have its undies in a bunch about any kind of sexuality. It’s utterly absurd. But that’s just the way it is. Just like the fact that we have to pay taxes and allow ourselves to age and die with a modicum of grace, and accept the reality of Fox News and doofusy people like Scott Walker, Donald Trump, and the KKK.

Well, you know what? Fuck ‘em. Fuck ‘em all. Play the game. As Robert Heinlein said, rub blue mud in your bellybutton if that’s what everyone else is doing, and then get on with your lives. You’re at the fulcrum of a remarkable moment in our cultural history. And not only that, you’re an intimate part of it. So, enjoy it. Love each other. Eat cake. Party hard. And then get up in the morning and go do more great things.

It’s truly how I feel. Marriage is what happens between two people as they’re living their lives together, and very little to do with what happens at the altar, or as a consequence of a piece of paper being signed.

However it’s also a part of our culture and legal system and that emotional part of our lizard brain which barely knows from rational.

So, we follow our hearts and make our peace with the contradictions. Some of us make it legal. Some of us could not begin to be bothered.

But life is a hard and challenging and frequently struggle-filled business. Finding someone you love, who makes your toes curl and your heart sing and your life a little happier…that’s something to be celebrated one way or another. It just is.

Of What Cloth?


Most of the time, when clients contact me, my “spiritual, but not religious” emphasis seems to make a lot of sense. Other times, folks have questions about what I am or am not willing to do in the context of their ceremony – or if there are state-level rules around what has to be in a ceremony.

In that vein, I got an email this morning from a prospective bride named Tracy asking me: “As far as religious aspects of the ceremony are there restrictions? I probably would just do a bible verse etc, but didn’t know if you couldn’t mention certain things or give a blessing.”

It’s a great question – and a terrific opportunity for me to clarify a number of things about Vermont’s wedding laws:

  • Vermont has no waiting period, blood test, or witness requirements.
  • Vermont has no rules about what can or cannot be in a ceremony – or if an actual ceremony even needs to happen. As long as the license is signed, you’re legally married.

As for MY rules, I really don’t have any. My job is to help couples have the wedding they want, and to serve that cause. I’ve had folks want a fully Bible-based ceremony, I’ve had people who didn’t even want God in the same zip code. I’ve had Pagans, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Sci-Fi Nerds (which, in fact, DOES count as a religion), Tea Aficionados (also a religion), Dog Lovers (DEFINITELY a religion) and pretty much every shade of what I’d call Tolerant Christian.

I’m pretty happy to read whatever couples want and include whatever rituals (or musical numbers) they feel they need to call their ceremony complete. The only place I think I’d draw the line would be ritual animal sacrifice and blood-drinking. So go forth and be who you are! I’m happy to come along for the ride!

Seasick At The Boat House

This is a performer named Seasick Steve. I thought it'd be nicer than a shot of someone yerking off the side of a boat.

This is a performer named Seasick Steve.
I thought it’d be nicer than a shot of someone yerking off the side of a boat.

I just performed the wedding for Steve and Jennie (names changed to protect the innocent and/or embarrassed) at the Burlington Boathouse.

The rehearsal was a pretty smooth affair with plenty of loving, friendly people and the kickiest little flower girl named Madeline – a child considerably older and wiser than her 4 years might belie.

Because the bride and groom were also on the young side (early 20s), before I left, I made a point of reminding them NOT to party too hard that night. I’ve had pasty, hung-over couples approach me at the altar before. And I can tell you that whether or not YOU think it’s obvious that your parents are holding up your rode-hard-and-put-away-wet self as you stagger down the aisle, for the rest of us, it is, shall I say, rather…apparent.

Anyway, they assured me they’d be well behaved. However, when I got to the Boathouse the next afternoon, Steve was off in a corner with his head between his knees. His team of Fellas claimed that someone must have slipped Steve a roofie the night before, as they really hadn’t had that much to drink.

I went over to Steve, who also swore up and down (or rather left and right – up and down were more than he could manage) that he hadn’t been on a pre-show bender.

Whether or not that was entirely the case, what was abundantly clear was that poor Steve was a raging bundle of nerves, and could barely sit up straight, much less pull his shaky, tuxedoed bod to his shiny, black-clad feet.

Kai, the Best Man, did a heroic job of trying to keep Steve focused, but Our Groom had the Requisite Hurl into a garbage can anyway. Actually, it was a recycling bin. Something about which the staff at the Boathouse were none too pleased.

I immediately directed Kai to go get some gum or breath mints, as there was no way I’d have Steve kissing Jennie with that particular mouth! Kai wisely managed to come back with gum and a whole bottle of Listerine, which seemed a sage and prudent choice.

As the Bridal Party and guests started arriving, Steve and I moved to the space near the altar, with Steve leaning against the railing, only making a feeble attempt at complete verticality. Conscious of issues around post-modern gender equity and personal identity, I didn’t want to tell him to Man Up, though I was sorely – sorely – tempted.

Finally, searching for some inspirational narrative that would bring Steve firmly to his feet, I said, “Look! Michael Jordan won an entire playoff game with the flu and a 105 degree fever. YOU can stand tall for six minutes and get married. Do it for Jennie.”


To his credit, Steve did – quite literally – rise to the occasion, though his vows were spoken in a barely audible whisper. To be fair, though, so were Jennie’s.

Honestly, I think they were both just terrified. And I get it. When I got married I had all kinds of questions about what being married would mean. What would it mean to my career and my identity as a woman? What kind of choices would this most important choice lock me into making for years to come? I spent several weeks before my wedding completely flipping out. So, I have a great deal of sympathy for both of them. I really do.

All those nerves, all those doubts – they’re all completely normal and natural. Though I’d encourage anyone struggling with any level of premarital jitters – or concerns of any kind – to go get help. Don’t suffer through your fears alone. Find someone to talk to – preferably a counselor or other neutral party who doesn’t have a huge agenda about the outcome of this, or any other part of your life.

It’s really ok to be scared. But you don’t have to go it alone.

Kat From The Kingdom

A woman who, like me, loves boots, Ben&Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy ice cream, Jon Bon Jovi, and an excess of exclamation points!!!!

My awesome friend Kat at Kingdom Wedding Photography has been spending the slow winter season spiffing up her blog, and interviewing other wedding vendors about their business and experience.  This week, she was kind enough to interview me!  And she asked great questions, including:

What is your favorite thing about what you do?
I pretty much love everything about it. I adore meeting new people at such a significant moment in their lives. I enjoy making the process of putting together the ceremony as easy as possible. I really like going to places around the state that I never would have seen. I get a huge kick out of dressing up in the color scheme of each wedding (it’s the actor in me – I love costumes) and, of course, actually performing the ceremony. It’s all just a blast!

What do you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a good listener, so I can really take in what a couple wants for their ceremony. I’m a deft writer, so I can craft something that’s elegant, artful, meaningful, personal, and also funny. I know how to create sacred space without being too sentimental or sanctimonious about it. I’m a very experienced performer, so I know how to take the stage and run the show while still keeping each couple at the center of their own wedding. Plus, I just don’t get rattled. So no matter what happens – be it animals, babies, weather, in-laws, or the bride passing out – I can stay focused and in charge without turning anything into a crisis.

What’s the one thing you wish everyone knew about you or your business?
Ha! What a funny question. I’m not sure. Hire me and find out…

Read the whole interview here.

Respect The Bazooms

Strapless Bridesmaids

Ok, folks.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a big, bold statement about bridesmaid’s dresses.  In fact, not just a statement, I’m going to make a heartfelt plea: Brides, please don’t put your bridesmaids in strapless dresses!  PLEASE!

“Why,” you may ask, “the heck not?  What’s wrong with strapless dresses on my galz?  What has a strapless bridesmaid’s dress ever done to you?”

Look, here’s the deal.  If your bridesmaids are all built like the waifish examples in the photo above, and they have beautifully tailored, well-fitting dresses that they’re comfortable wearing and can move in without fear of any sort of wardrobe malfunction, then by all means, go ahead and stick your closest friends in what amounts to a very pretty fabric tube.

But the reality – one that I’ve witnessed over and over for years – is that most women in attendance do not look like these underfed, well-primped little babelets here. Most women look like…women! And most women have bodies which must be respected, and, more importantly, many of these women have sincerely bodacious bosoms which, in a strapless dress, are often barely contained, and frequently look like they’re about to leap clean out of the front of the frock and make a frantic break for freedom.

Conversely, if you have bridesmaids who are somewhat Breast Light, they have a tendency to act like there’s very little holding up their strapless dress, and that the garment might, at any moment, shimmy clean off their body and land in a pretty little glittery pool on the floor.

All this means that what I see, as maid after maid parades down the aisle, is a lot of twitching and fidgeting to make sure that the dress in question is still accurately in place, as well as a posture-busting epidemic of hunchy-shouldered Stances of Discomfort.

This is both a tough – and completely understandable – dilemma.  Few ladies these days actually learn how to sport this kind of elegant frockery, and the lack of experience in really WEARING a dress often shows.  But there’s no judgement here.  Honestly, it’s not just the occasional bridesmaid who suffers.

Years ago, I was an actor in New York understudying at a theater that did all classical plays.  The fun part about those kinds of shows is that the costumes are magnificent: corsets and petticoats and long trains and flouncy sleeves and highly elevated cleavage.  But you have to know how to wear this kind of stuff so that it doesn’t look like it’s wearing you – or worse, that you just don’t belong in the 18th century.

One night, after we second-stringers did our one test runthrough of the current show, the artistic director asked me where I was trained, and how I knew how to carry myself like an Italian courtesan of yore.  Apparently, he was getting a lot of young women coming through the door who would walk around like someone just randomly stuck them in their clothes without being able to carry the sartorial spirit of the age with them.

This is all to say that it’s not easy to carry off a really fancy dress under the best of circumstances.  And if it’s a dress that isn’t selected specifically for your body type, then you’re basically up chiffon creek.

My recommendation?  Pick your color and let your gals choose the style which suits them best.  They’re more likely to enjoy the dress – and maybe even wear it again in the future!  Honestly, it’s not going to ruin your photos to have one woman in an empire waist and another in spaghetti straps or halter style. You can even mix-and-match a bit.  I promise, it’ll look fabulous!

Weddings are all about love, and loving your friends means not asking them to spend money on and wear something which doesn’t make them feel totally delish.



mix and match bridesmaid dresses

One Love

I got a call the other day from a woman in Texas named Melissa. She’s in a graduate program in mental health counseling, and she’s writing a research paper on gay marriage.

Melissa comes from a very conservative Christian family, has strong ideas about marriage, and for most of her life, her beliefs and values have run firmly in the direction of one man, one woman, no divorce.

And yet, she’s committed to being an effective counselor for everyone who comes to her door. She knows it’s her responsibility to open her mind and learn about people from other backgrounds and who live lives different from hers.

She came to me in my guise as a wedding officiant. Living in Vermont, of course, I do a large number of same sex marriages – in fact, I’d say they make up about 60% of my business.

I feel very strongly that legalizing same sex marriage is a social justice issue of the highest importance, and for me, ranks right up there with ensuring women’s reproductive rights and combatting climate change.

Melissa didn’t know this when she called, and she certainly walked away with an earful!

She asked some great questions that I’d never thought about before, like how I define the “sanctity of marriage.”  I told her there’s a vast range of marriage styles and marital traditions seen in the long history of humanity: monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, arranged marriages, political marriages, shotgun marriages – even an old Chinese custom of women technically marrying a dead man for the preservation of her property and independence.

Unfortunately, too often, the rules and laws of marriage have benefitted families, dynasties, businesses, and, of course, men, without any regard for the freedom, autonomy, or well-being of women.  And certainly, throughout the ages, many people, both men and women, have been stuck in marriages which should have ended long ago, but for the repressive laws of their societies and cultures.

So to my mind, upholding the sanctity of any marriage means adhering to the ground rules of that particular marriage, and those rules should be set by the couple themselves, and no one else.

Then she asked me the million dollar question: do I think gay marriage is any different from straight marriage. And it was clear she didn’t have a preconceived idea – she really wanted to know.

I said absolutely not. There is no difference whatsoever. Love is love. The joy of finding romance and partnership and making a long term commitment to building a life with someone shines the same way in everybody’s eyes. It’s a soul connecting to a soul and uniting formally in a manner which transforms the relationship – sometimes just legally, but more often in some charismatic, luminous, undefinable way. Gay or straight, the goal is the same: unity with the beloved.

After a few more questions, Melissa asked if I had anything more I wanted to say, and what came out of my mouth surprised us both. It’s an odd thing for a Wedding Officiant to admit, but honestly, I actually think the notion of marriage is a bunch of crap.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of ritual for life’s great moments, and I champion the psycho-spiritual value of formally uniting with another. After all, the truth is that long term relationships are hard work, and you need something to hang on to when things inevitably get rough. Formalizing commitment has great value.

However, the idea that an institution, be it a government or a religious body, has any right to define which marriages are legal and which are illegal is a bunch of sanctimonious, self-serving hogwash. Nobody, other than the people choosing to commit to each other, should decide what’s right and proper.

However, I’m not here to dismantle the system. Even I know how to pick my battles.

So, as long as people (of all stripes and persuasions) want to come to Vermont and get married, I am more than happy to serve.

Until Bananas Turn To Ink

A wedding should be a celebration that fits the people getting married and you really helped us achieve that. It has been a joy working with you. - Deanna and Guy

Guy and Deanna came all the way from St. Louis to get married at a rented farmhouse in beautiful Craftsbury, Vermont.  They had about 10 friends and family there with them, and we did the ceremony out underneath a couple of old apple trees called “The Married Couple” by the owners of the farmhouse.

At the end of the ceremony, Deanna and Guy handed out little books called Until Bananas Turn To Ink.  It’s a love poem written by William M. Perry for his wife and runs along the lines of:

Until bananas turn to ink
I’ll keep you in my heart.
Till helium begins to sink
I’ll hope we never part.
Until pillows grow on trees
And the ocean turns to glue
And polar bears raise honeybees
I always will love you.

It’s very sweet and whimsical, and the entire assembled gang read it out loud, each person taking a line.  It was a terrific moment of easy group participation, and highly recommended for anyone looking to get their wedding guests more involved in the ceremony.

JP or Me?

When folks start planning their wedding, one of the most critical questions is figuring out who’s going to perform the ceremony.

Part of the challenge is that in civil society, the state, rather than individuals, decides what makes a marriage “legitimate” in the eyes of the law – with all the associated rights and priviledges.

This means that to be legal, the ceremony can only be presided over by someone the state deems responsible enough to validate the union.

This is, on one level, totally absurd.  Why should the state have any jurisdiction over a romantic union?  Well, that’s a short question with a long answer, and one which we’re not going to get into here.  For more info, you can read Marriage, A History by Stephanie Coontz.

But the upshot is that you, the affianced, basically have to choose between a member of the clergy and a Justice of the Peace.

However, if you’re not religious, but not completely secular, then neither option can seem appropriate.  A priest, minister, or Rabbi will probably seem like they’re bringing too much God and tradition into the room.

On the other hand, a Justice of the Peace is usually an elected official, and while they’re perfectly capable of marrying you, it will probably be in a short, respectful, but fairly secular ceremony.

Enter Vermont Wedding Officiant!  As a writer, I have a strong sense of the craft of creating a meaningful ceremony.  As an actor, I am a seasoned performer, and can weave a sense of intimacy with you, the couple, as well as with your beloved community.  As a yoga teacher, I am experienced in fostering an environment with a sense of occasion and sacredness – without going over the top about it.

But where does my legal jurisdiction come from?  Why is the power vested in me by the state of Vermont to marry you?  Because I’m also an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church.

They’re an old hippie church out of California, totally legal in the eyes of the feds, but they’ll ordain anyone because they believe in democratizing the marital process.  You probably know someone who got ordained by the ULC specifically so they could marry some friends or family.

I got ordained years ago precisely because I saw some friends get married by a Justice of the Peace.  I’m sure the JP was a lovely human being, but her ceremony was totally boring, and I thought, “I can do better than that.”

The best part about the ULC is their core beliefs are that everyone should have as much access to food, shelter, and sex as they need.  When I heard that, I thought, “Now THAT is a church I can get behind!”

Over the years, performing meaningful, spiritual-but-not-religious, gently humorous, and deeply personal wedding ceremonies has become something of a calling for me, and I love being a part of such a significant moment in peoples’ lives.